Why, yes, I am starting a consulting firm specializing in hack-tastic headlines, why do you ask?
The Yankees designated reliever Edwar Ramirez for assignment on Sunday to make room for Chan Ho Park on the roster. Although the Yankees say outwardly that they want to hold on to him, Ramirez’s strikeout rate leads some observers (like Rob Neyer) to the understandable conclusion that he’ll be claimed off of waivers.
It’s hard to imagine Ramirez making it through waivers. Sure, there are probably still some teams that look at a reliever with a 5.19 ERA and a sub-90 mph heater and blow him off, but this isn’t 1999. Many, probably most teams look deeper. Ramirez’s strikeout rate in the major leagues from 2007-2009 is 10.62 per nine innings. That is higher than Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, Joe Nathan, and Jose Valverde, among others.
Of course, during the same period, Ramirez also walked 5.13 batters per nine innings, leaving him with a decidely below-average 2.07 K/BB ratio. To make matters worse, 2009 was by far Ramirez’s worst major league performance in both areas, with his K/9 dropping from 13.29 in 2007 to 10.25 in 2008 to 9.00 in 2009, at the same time his walk rate ballooned to its highest yet, at 7.36 in 2009. All of this is reflected in his FIP, which was only good in 2008 (3.96) but horrible in 2007 and 2009. WAR, as one would expect, followed suit, with Ramirez posting a -0.3 in 2007, 0.5 in 2008, and -0.4 in 2009. While it is true that single-season reliever performances have to be taken with a shaker of salt due to sample size, it is also true that pitcher true talent tends to vary more season-to-season than that of hitters, and Ramirez’s overall trend it not good.
FIP doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. While Ramirez is a fly ball pitcher, he did suffer some dreadful luck with home run/fly ball rates in 2007 (19.4%) and 2009 (18.2%), whereas in his one decent season of 2008, it was closer to league average (10.9% — average is usually around 11%). Still, the advanced stats that adjust for batted ball types don’t completely absolve Ramirez — xFIP agrees that he was fairly unlucky in 2007 (4.73) but the decreased Ks and increased walks in 2009 gives him a 5.60. tERA says something similar — a 6.40 in 2009 is downright ugly.
According to our pitch types, about half of Ramirez’s pitches are fastballs, a bit under 10% are sliders, and about 40% are the change-up that reputedly got him discovered in the independents by the Yankees. His fastball has not fared well, being below average all three seasons according to pitch type linear weights. The slider has been slightly below average, but what got Ramirez in 2009 was that, unlike the previous two seasons, his formerly excellent changeup stopped fooling hitters. In genearl, prior to 2009, major league hitters offered at Ramirez’s outside-the-zone pitches fairly often, but in 2009, his O-Swing% was below average.
I’m not a scout or a coach, so I’m not going to say exactly what Ramirez might be doing wrong or whether it’s fixable. The numbers seem to indicate that Ramirez has to rely on fooling hitters with his changeup, and that simply didn’t happen in 2009. It will be interesting to see which team takes the (low-risk) chance to find out whether it can in the future.
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